Work begins on new Highlands starter farm
19 March 2014 | By Olivia Midgley
NEW entrants will soon be given the chance to bid for a starter farm in Caithness.
The land at Achnamoine, near Halkirk in Sutherland is the latest site offered as part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s new starter programme, which aims to help young people get their first foothold on the farming ladder.
It comes after investigations by Farmers Guardian revealed county councils were continuing to rake in cash by selling off prime agricultural holdings which have traditionally been reserved for new farmers.
Despite a shortage of tenant farms and increasing competition between eager new starters in England and Wales, councils have sold off dozens of farms in the last year alone.
Scotland, which does not have a council farm network, has been investing in starter farms for the next generation through a number of initiatives, backed by Scottish Government.
The Forestry Commission has been working on a ‘repositioning’ scheme, which involves selling areas with low potential to allow investment in new land to deliver greater benefits.
Successful entrants to a starter farm are given a 10 year lease to enable them to build up a farming business using land and property on the National Forest Estate.
There are currently seven starter farms across Scotland including units in Fife, Ayrshire, Stirlingshire, Aberdeenshire and Dumfriesshire. This new starter farm at Achnamoine is the first one to be located in the Highlands.
Forestry Commission Scotland’s district manager for North Highland Tim Cockerill, said the property would be ideal for a new farmer looking for a start in an integrated livestock and woodland environment.
“For new entrants it can be very difficult to get their feet on the first rung of the farming ladder. Vacant properties are rare and often out of the price range for most,” said Mr Cockerill.
The initial proposal is to create a starter farm of a similar size to previous units – around 65 ha (160 acres) of rotational grazing.
Some additional areas of unplanted land linked to previous Forestry Commission Scotland acquisitions at Dale and Sibster may also be offered with the tenancy.
Applications will be accepted from autumn.
For more information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/starterfarms.